The 6th Dalai Lama

By Christian Schmidt

1683_____Tsangyang Gyatso, the 6th Dalai Lama, is born in a village near India’s current eastern border with Bhutan. The Tibetan people are as yet ignorant of the death of the 5th Dalai Lama, and the regent, Sangye Gyatso, must search for his reincarnation in secret. As a young man, the future Dalai Lama is already marked by such things as the fact that he leaves footprints in stone, or his ability to inscribe mystic runes into the cliff-face. He is taken to a monastery under cover, and his training begins. He does not, however, turn out as hoped. The young man is for a long time unable to decide whether to adhere to the Nyingmapa or to the Gelugpa traditions.

1697_____Rumours of the death of the 5th Dalai Lama can no longer be contained; the regent sends for his successor and presents him to the people. The boy has meanwhile grown to be a youth of 14, and is given the name Tsangyang Gyatso. Although ascended to the throne, he continues to show no interest in his duties, preferring to spend time with his friends. He likes to go for walks and practice archery. Perhaps the reason for his distraction is that the 6th Dalai Lama has fallen in love. A series of poems to a woman he seems to have met before his elevation, works of longing, speak for this conclusion. Installed in Lhasa, he is able to still the pain by visiting taverns with friends. The people remain true to him even when he revokes his monastic oath, dresses in blue silk, wears his hair long and sports finger rings.

1706_____The Mongolian titular king of Tibet, Lhabzang, forcibly establishes a usurper 6th Dalai Lama on the throne. Tsangyang Gyatso must step down, and after discussions with China, he is deported to Beijing. His trail goes cold en route, somewhere near Lake Gunga-nor. He is not yet 24 years old. There is no end to the rumours of his violent demise: one version insists that he unleashed a sandstorm by performing a special lama dance, sitting down within it to meditate, and ceasing to breathe – and all this to avoid being used as a political hostage against his own country. The 6th Dalai Lama is the only one to lack a tomb.